Want to change your guitar's humbuckers and upgrade your tone but don't know where to start? These guides prove changing pickups doesn't need to be stressful

If you've got an electric guitar you love to play but aren't in love with its sounds, upgrading pickups can be a game-changer. That's why I do it and the effect can be dramatic for a reasonable amount of money – I installed Sunbear P-90-size 'Soapbird' Firebird humbuckers in the Mexican Fender Player Mustang I bought on eBay and it's now my favourite guitar. Total cost: £550. 

But it took a while for me to convince myself I could change pickups in my own guitars without some calamitous damage occurring. I needn't have worried: It turns out it's logical and not actually that difficult at all if you simply follow the process and keep your soldering steady (semi-hollow guitars often being an exception to that rule because the wiring access can be fiddly). This tutorial video from Gibson Master Luthier Jim DeCola (via Gibson Gazette) is a great place to start. 

Jim is focussing on humbuckers in a Les Paul here and he's a man who knows what he's talking about. He even suggests adjusting the height of your existing pickups first before deciding to make a change because it might be that simple to improve your sound. 

Taking things step-by-step in an organised environment is crucial with any guitar work in my experience, and Jim's an expert at it. The video above really makes it all feel digestible and accessible for newcomers to pickup installation. And Jim's tip on taking a photo of the existing wiring before making any changes is a very wise one!

One thing the video doesn't go deeper on, but is a crucial skill before you get into any wiring work on electric guitars, is soldering as a skill. So I'd recommend this excellent video below from Thomann's Kris Barocsi – his Guitar Tech Tips for the German music gear retail giant is essential viewing for anyone who wants to get into their own maintenance work.  

I'd also recommend checking out our own specialist step-by-step features on changing pickups for a Les Paul-style guitar, Strat-style guitar and Telecaster. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.